Aug 24, 2020
On the podcast this week, Steven and Sean are learning how to blast off into orbit as we watch the enlightening, thrilling Philip Kaufman film, The Right Stuff.
Strap yourselves in because this one’s gonna be a doozy of an episode. Not only is it one of the longer movies we’ve ever watched for the podcast, but this one can also be a bit of a contentious one in some ways. I think that’s what happens when you’re watching a film that’s as exhaustive and in-depth as this one is. If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie that explains the full extent of the Mercury Seven astronauts, what they went through to be able to go into space, and a good bit of past global politics, then this one’s for you!
Okay, that sounded like these here show notes are trying to talk you out of watching this film. That’s the case! The Right Stuff is absolutely worth a watch. Just don’t feel bad about splitting this one up into a few separate viewings.
The film opens up with a very thrilling moment in the history of flight: the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager. This film makes the case that this was the moment that changed so much for the world. There’s a strong line between this point and people landing and walking on the Moon for the very first time. These are monumental moments in humankind’s history and they’re depicted in a very real and thrilling way here.
While most other movies might have spent much of their running times depicting just the scary and exciting process of putting someone up into space, this one also spends a significant amount of time showing how the dangerous job of being an astronaut affects these men and their families. This film truly isn’t just about rockets and space travel and glory. It’s actually about the drive of a select group of people and the brave struggle of their wives.
It’s a film about lofty dreams and sometimes crushing reality.
Overall, Steven enjoyed the sound design of this one, but he was fascinated by how different sound design techniques and preferences were during this era of filmmaking. There’s an elevated reality to the sound in this film that may not be so in vogue these days. Regardless, much of the sound really draws you in. It’s easy to imagine yourself shooting into space while watching this film, especially if you’ve got a nice sound system.
Likewise, Sean was pleased with the look of this film. The camera work and lighting depicted three very different main locations: the desert where Chuck Yeager spends his time setting speed records, the sterile rooms and hallways of NASA, and the cramped confines of the capsules that were used to send these astronauts into space. Each one of those main locations felt real. You could taste the grit of the desert dust, hear the squeakiness of those NASA hallways, and feel the squeeze of those capsules.
This is a film that demands a lot of your attention, but it rewards the time you spend watching it. It depicts an important history in an exacting and entertaining way. Give it a watch today!
(Recorded on June 18, 2020)
Links to Stuff We Mentioned:
This article is a fascinating look at what the sound barrier is, the history of breaking it, and just what it takes to do something so extraordinary.